Welcome to the Russkie Kino Klub / Russian Film Club of Chattanooga as we celebrate more than one year as a movie club! We might be the world's only Russian Film Club outside Russia!
We meet monthly for a Russian movie with English subtitles. The meeting date is the SECOND
Saturday of each month, starting with pizza (one vegetarian, one meat) at 6:15 p.m. followed by
the film at the home of Mikhail Vassilev. After each film, we might have a short discussion and raise questions.
We invite e-mail comments:
Betsy's e-mail address is email@example.com.
Mikhail's e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pizza time is 6:15 p.m., and the location is the home of Mikhail Vassilev; directions to his house are below.
Directions to Mikhail's house:
Regardless of whether you are driving to East Ridge from town or from I-75, go north on South Seminole Dr. Take an IMMEDIATE right onto Old Ringgold Road, passing a barber shop and small bookstore on your left. After that block, bear left onto Poindexter Avenue. At 807 Poindexter, you are there; it's on your left.
Mikhail Vassilev's phone number: (423)322-2262
Betsy Chesney's number: (423)413-9586
Plans for the immediate future:
Sept. 14, 2013
references Twelve Angry
Men, a 1957
courtroom drama. Like the
1957 film, this
examines the presumption
innocence, and has
a knife. This film has a
(rather than a Mexican)
of murder. Mikhailkov's
film explores the
lives of the jurists, won
Award for its "consistent brilliance"
nominated for an Academy Award.
January 12, 2013:
Andrei Zviagintsev's 2003 film begins with two brothers,
their mother, and aunt. The younger boy reflects: “All my
life, my father was only a photograph in the attic.” The
father returns and takes the boys on a journey into the
wilderness and tests, rescues, scolds, scrutinizes,
mentors, and ignores them in a test of the boys' character.
Silence and mystery play major roles. Production costs
were low, but The Return won a Golden Lion Award at
the Venice Film Festival.
We watched The Irony
of Fate, or, Enjoy Your Bath. It is a strong
tradition for Russians to watch this
movie each year at Christmastime or New
Year's Eve. Rob writes:
THE IRONY OF FATE,
ENJOY YOUR BATH
This is Russia's favorite feel-good New Year's film. This comic romance was first aired in 2 parts on December 31st, 1975 & January 1st, 1976. We watched both in one evening.
Postwar Americans built look-alike houses in Levittown and elsewhere; Brezhnev's Soviets built “Panelnie Dom” - domiciles of concrete panels. The movie's delightful animated intro shows how these houses came to be built: the bureacrats spoke, and it was done. Identical street names had identical apartments with identical floor plans, identical locks, & identical furnishings.
Within these file boxes, live non-identical individuals. Zhenya, a surgeon, lives in Moscow on 3rd Constructors' Street, Building 25, 4th floor, Apartment 12. He intends to propose to his fiancee on New Year's Eve, but has a wee bit of beer and a “Banya” suana with his buddies.
Zhenya, with his mind purified by vodka, accidentally gets on a plane from Moscow to Leningrad, to 3rd Constructors' Street, building #25, 4th floor, apartment 12, to new love and a new life in the New Year.
Several details: Eldar Ryazanov, the film's director, sat next to Zhenya on the plane. Barbara Bryiska, who played Nadya, was Polish, so an accent-free Russian voice was dubbed. Boris Pasternak & Akhmatova wrote lyrics & poetry.
Like Narnia under the spell of the icy Jadis, in the Soviet Union, it “always snows and it's never Christmas”. The Revolutionary Communists outlawed Christmas. Decades later, they resurrected New Year's as their principal winter holiday, and returned the evergreen tree to the celebrations of the year's longest night and shortest day. This film celebrates that Soviet holiday, the first day of a new year, a new life, with new love and new possibilities.
November 10 movie: "White Sun of the
Desert": 1970. What happens when
and the Central Committee demand
a "Western" to be made in the Soviet
Union, not worse than what the
Americans are making?
East/West--Ukrainians return to the USSR after WWII and then escape.
September: Tycoon / Oligarch
August movie: OPERATION “Y” , AND THE OTHER ADVENTURES OF SHURIK
Nerdy bespectacled Shurik bounces through college-age misadventures in three 1965 slap-sticks. Shurik is played by Aleksandr Demyanenko--the scientist in the RFC's May movie, Back to the Future. Shurik fights for a place for an elder woman on a bus in Workmate, reads lecture notes of a co-ed on a streetcar in Deja Vu. & foils thieves by sword-fighting with musical instruments in Operation Y.Yuri Nikulin, a famous clown, plays a bandit and a bum. Leonid Gaidai directed this trilogy and May's Back to the Future. A cheery box-office hit, the opening credits state “Children up to 16 years – ADMITTED.”The spiciest part is when Shurik kisses the co-ed on the cheek, but she is thinking about the teddy bear.
July, 2012: The July Russian Film Club closes out our series of “Not so terrible films about Ivan the Terrible” with a great film about another king. Grigory Kozintsev's King Lear, along with his Hamlet, are considered to be among the finest film adaptations of Shakespeare.
Black/White, 1971, music by Dmitri Shostakovich, Russian translation by Boris Pasternak, an Estonian playing Lear. If thee has Shakespearephobia, thou need fear not; the movie is only 132 minutes, and the subtitles are modern English. Sadly, the subtitles are probably back-translated from Pasternak's Russian, rather than pulled from the English Shakespeare we know and love. I did not note obscenity or intimacy. Lear, like all of Shakespeare, deals with adult matters, including an illegitimate Edmund, greed, psychosis and death, but also Shakespeare's wisdom and guidance in moral matters.
June movie: TSAR
DIRECTED BY PAVEL LUNGIN
We have looked at Tsar Ivan Grozny through the eyes of Eisenstein and Stalin's censors. We have looked at Ivan through the eyes of a 1973 time machine. In June, the Russian film club will look at Ivan through the eyes of a monk, Philippe Kolichev, whom Ivan brings to court to balance the evils and misdeeds of the political world.
The Monk, and the Tsar – two visions of life, purpose, and power.
Kolichev was an ascetic monk, born Theodore, and brought to the royal court and brought up as Ivan's friend. Young Theodore saw a vision in a church bakery, became a monk, took on the name Philippe, and refused friend Ivan's initial invitations to become Metropolitan, the highest rank of the Muscovy Church.
The RFC has seen Lungin's efforts as director & Mamanov's acting as a monk in the mid 1900's in the film, Island.
May, 2012: IVAN VASIEVICH: BACK TO THE FUTURE
Ivan the Terrible.
Rob shared more of his
encyclopedic knowledge of the making
of the film. Here is what he writes:
IVAN THE TERRIBLE/IVAN GROZNY PART II THE BOYARS' PLOT
by SERGEI EISENSTEIN
Last month, in Sergei Eisenstein's Ivan Grozny, Part I, we saw young King Ivan lose his mother to Boyar assassins, lose his wife Anastasya to the poisoned cup of Aunt Serafina, & belligerencies from Euros on the left, the Khanate on the right; and feudal Boyars within Russia.
About the only good things that happened were when Ivan's puppy - Aleksei Basmanov - blew up Kazan's wall, and when the Russian people pledged unquestioning obedience to Tsar Ivan if he would just quit moping about his dead wife and return to Moscow to boss them around like in the good old days. Vulture Ivan did that and more – Ivan and Basmanov created the first Russian Secret Police – the Oprichnini, with the elite Oprichniki, Ivan's bodyguards. Or was that the Chekists, or NKVD, orKGB??
Our April movie, Ivan Grozny, Part II, opens in Poland - Ivan's close friend, Prince Kurbsky, defects to the Poles. Remember: (A) Kurbsky was always ticked that Ivan got Anastasia, & (B) Poland is where attackers of Russia frequently come from, including the NAZIs, who attacked while Eisenstein filmed. . . .
Ivan raises his childfriend pal, a monk renamed Philippe, to the position of Metropolitan – Bishop of the Moscow Tsardom. Philippe supports the Boyars and “betrays” Ivan, so Ivan's Oprichniki decapite Philippe's relatives. The Oprichniki dance in the Hellish red glow of Russia's first color movie film, requisitioned from the NAZIs. Basmanov's son, who has dedicated himself to a life of violence, dances as a woman.
Ivan flips between meekness and fierceness; Director Eisenstein balanced between fulfilling Stalin's demands to show WHY Ivan was cruel, and Stalin's censors' demands to avoid cruelty that resembled Stalin's. One moment, Ivan gently humors the drunken fool Vladimir, who's treacherous mother looks like the Wicked Witch of the West, minus the green and plus machismo. Another moment, the vulture is pillaging Novgorod in his own territory.
For some strange reason, Ivan feels lonely these days, just like Big Joe Stalin.
Ivan Grozny, Part II, filmed during WWII, was sufficiently similar to Stalin's cruelty that Part II was not shown until Khrushchev's Thaw, in 1958, after Stalin's death in 1953. Eisenstein filmed parts of Part III. Neither Eisenstein nor Part III survived Stalin's oppression – Eisenstein's heart failed in 1948, at the age of 50.
He adds, "It's the Soviet Union's second highest selling film! It kept Ronald Reagan awake for multiple viewings as his preparation for meeting Mikhail Gorbachev! It won an Oscar and the Golden Berlin Bear awards! Vladimir Menshov's 1980 film follows the lives of several young women who come from the provincial hinterlands of Russia to seek romance and fortune, or at least a reasonably bright future, in the big city. Some say this film starts off slow and dull, paralleling the slow, dull lives of small town life in 1950's Russia. We follow their youthful naivete and hopes and then see where their lives end up two decades later."
November 19, 2011: Balthazar's Feast / A Night with Stalin. The bulk of the movie was about a feast night with Stalin and comrades, complete with dancing, music, food, drink, and shooting an egg off the chef's head for sport.
October 15, 2011: We had scheduled Palms but had technical difficulties, so we decided to watch House of Fools again. Our guest had never seen it, and those of us who had did not mind seeing it again. Our guest was Giuseppe from Italy, who lives in Switzerland, works in Chattanooga, and is married to a Russian lady.
September 17, 2011: House of Fools. According to Ann, this movie is based on an old tale with many variations and messages, including that the so-called crazy people are sane in that they take care of each other and survive, and the allegedly sane people are, in fact, the crazy ones (caught up in war, in this case). Attending: Ann Swint, Mikhail, Marina, Betsy
August 20, 2011: We watched Solaris, a sci-fi movie. The film centers on a man who went into space and was visited by his deceased wife. Attending: Rob, Mikhail, Josh, Allen, Betsy, Ann, Ashley
July 16, 2011: The film for July was Man with the Diamond Arm, a comedy. Though this movie came out in the '70s, it is still very popular with Russians. In the film, a man unwittingly has a cast containing diamonds and coins put on his left arm, and among his other problems is the one of trying to explain to his wife how it got there.
June 18, 2011: Our movie was The Italian. This movie centers around a little orphan boy who has a chance to be adopted by an Italian couple, but he has other ideas. . . .
May 21, 2011: We watched Russian Ark. In this movie, a ghost toured The Hermitage, and we saw a compressed view of Russian history and art. Guests for the evening were Josh Fickett (who spent a year in Ukraine) and Catherine Cothran (a Chattanooga poet who studied Russian in her college days).
April 16, 2011: To relate to the Easter season, we saw The Island. The movie concerns a man who became a monk on an island and had a lifelong struggle to cope with a murder he thought he had committed as a young man. Guests that evening were Tatiana Allen (a physics teacher at UTC), her friend and her son, Josh Fickett, and Sid Lifsey (who has a degree in international relations). Rob McDonald prepped us for the movie by giving a short talk about the Russian Orthodox Church.
March 26, 2011: Our inaugural movie as the Russian Film Club was The Barber of Siberia. The story is of an American prostitute who went to Russia to seduce a Russian general. Instead, she fell in love with a young Russian soldier, with whom she had a child. However, he was sent to prison, and she married a man with a machine that would mow down many trees to make way for development. The title is a double entendre; the first meaning alludes to the tree-eating machine that symbolizes greed, and the second refers to the soldier, who became a barber with a family after his prison days. Our guest for the evening was Catherine Cothran, a Chattanooga poet who studied Russian in her college days.
A brief history of the club: The Russian Film Club's co-founders are Mikhail Vassilev, Rob McDonald, and Betsy Chesney. In March of 2010, Mikhail told Betsy that he wanted to introduce more Russian speakers to his parents. We began meeting once or twice a month in local restaurants to eat and fellowship; our group was the seed of a club, but the club idea remained a dream.
However, through the months, our guests included Rob McDonald (who goes to Russia often and has been active with Chattanooga's Russian sister city, Nizhnii Tagil), Ann Swint (retired teacher of Russian and French), Dr. and Mrs. Hefferlin (who lived behind the Iron Curtain for several years), Gene Hyde (speaker of Russian) and his wife, Vladimira Jeliazkova (teacher of Russian) and her son, Josh Fickett (who spent a year in Ukraine), and Alla Brown (native of Ukraine) and her husband.
In early 2011, Mikhail's father became immobile. Rob said one night, "I have a pretty good collection of classic Russian films. We could start a film club and go to Mikhail's father, since he can't join us anymore at a restaurant." Thus, the Russian Film Club was born. Before the showing of our first movie, Mikhail's father passed away. His widow joins us for almost every meeting. We miss Mr. Vassilev, who was a scientist and military man, but we are growing and going strong.